Though James won Rookie of the Year honors Tuesday, Anthony has something bigger to worry about—the playoffs.
“I’m happy right now,” the Denver Nuggets forward said. “We’re one of the few teams playing in the postseason. There ain’t nothing much more you can ask for.”
In Denver’s 106-92 loss in Game 1 to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Anthony was a little overexcited.
He picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and took an early seat. Minnesota responded with the first of several runs that forced the Nuggets to play catch-up the rest of the way.
“Once I got my second foul, I knew it was going to be a long night for me,” he said.
Anthony admitted he was a little too antsy at first, but he said he would learn from it.
“I can take a lot from the first game,” he said.
The young Nuggets take some solace in that they hung tough with the top-seeded Timberwolves and cut a 22-point lead to five early in the fourth quarter.
But there are plenty of adjustments coach Jeff Bzdelik wants his team to make for Wednesday’s Game 2.
That includes doing a better job of defending the pick-and-roll of Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell, who combined for 70 points Sunday night. The Wolves also outrebounded the Nuggets 48-35 and scored 25 second-chance points to Denver’s six.
“Rebounding is just going down there and getting your nose dirty and coming out with the basketball,” Bzdelik said.
Despite Denver’s problems, the mood at practice was upbeat Monday and Tuesday.
“Guys should believe that we can get this done,” guard Jon Barry said. “I feel real good about it.”
The Wolves are also feeling good, though they’ve also got a few glitches to fix. Most notable was Minnesota’s inability to keep Denver down.
“We didn’t really play that great of a basketball game,” Garnett said.
Like the Nuggets, Wolves coach Flip Saunders said his players probably got too caught up in their emotions.
“Usually when you go up big, the crowd’s into the game,” Saunders said. “They’re cheering, then you’re looking to make big plays instead of just making basic plays.”
Anthony, who had 11 points in the third quarter, had only one point in the fourth. He wants to be more aggressive earlier than he was in Game 1, believing he can beat any defender with that quick first step.
“I was just looking at the defense and the hole was just clogged out,” Anthony said. “And I was like, ‘I can’t go nowhere.’ Then in the second half, I kind of figured it out: just try to go to the hole anyway.”
Bzdelik cautioned against expecting too much from his young star.
“I think we all forget that he’s 19 years old,” he said. “You go back in history and look at some of the great basketball players of all time and see what they did in their first playoff game. I think Michael (Jordan) in his first playoff game was 7-for-19 or something like that.”
As for the Rookie of the Year voting, James received 78 of a possible 118 first-place votes. Anthony had the other 40, not nearly enough in his team’s eyes.
“You can’t discount what Carmelo has done,” Bzdelik said.